The Canadian Transportation Agency has rejected a claim that Air Canada’s decision to stop transporting non-human primates for research purposes is discriminatory and unreasonable, removing a suspension of the carrier’s restrictions.
Complaints had been submitted to the agency alleging that Air Canada’s tariff revisions imposed to stop the transportation of research primates discriminated against certain shippers.
The agency called Air Canada’s move “a rational business decision” that does not differentiate among shippers. The carrier, though, now has to re-file the original tariff revision and, in the meantime, still has to transport non-human primates.
This saga began in November 2011 when Air Canada filed its proposed tariff change with an effective date of Jan. 10, 2012. The agency then received complaints of discrimination from a researcher at Queen’s University and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Air Canada’s proposal was suspended pending the outcome of an agency investigation.
In 2010, Air Canada carried 182 shipments of primates from China to Canada; the shipments represented 0.01 percent of the carrier’s cargo tonnage worldwide. In 2011, the carrier transported 33 shipments, and that number has declined to six shipments in 2012. Each shipment contained a number of primates; in 2010, the carrier transported 1,828 primates.
Michelle Thew, chief executive of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, which intervened in the case, points out that refusing to ship animals as cargo is part of a growing trend in the airline industry.
“We are delighted that the Canadian Transportation Agency has upheld the decision by Air Canada to discontinue its involvement in the cruel transportation of primates for research,” she said in a statement. “Air Canada now joins the increasing number of airlines that have taken the decision to dissociate themselves from the cruelty and suffering that are intrinsic to this industry. This is an issue of strong public concern, and it is only right that Air Canada should be allowed to respond to that concern.”
While FedEx, UPS and other major players have transported animals as part of movements between zoos or for humanitarian purposes, the focus on the transportation of laboratory animals has made carriers jumpy about shipping any animals at all. One of the biggest animal shippers is Russia’s AirBridgeCargo Airlines, which routinely transports large shipments of animals, ranging from foxes to breeding cows and pigs to racehorses. - Jon Ross